For many sports enthusiasts and sneakerheads, working at a global sports company like Nike would be the ultimate dream. The question is, how does one get a job there? In addition to having a passion for an active lifestyle, being an ambitious individual and a great team player are also essential attributes that make an ideal candidate for Nike – yes, it’s pretty much like playing sports.
“I have learnt that the mentality of athletes or especially people who likes sports might make better employees,” says Christine Fung, Nike Greater China’s Category Brand Marketing Manager, “for sportsmanship, dedication, competitiveness is in our blood.”
Since joining Swoosh’s Hong Kong office almost five years ago, Christine has taken part in numerous Nike projects from participating in Air Max Day celebrations, to working behind-the-scenes at some of the Nike Women campaigns you’ve probably seen at your local sneaker store. As a firm believer in fitness, she also helped organize the first large-scale workout event in Hong Kong, before eventually relocating to the brand’s Greater China Headquarters in Shanghai.
For the latest installment of our “How Did You Land That Job” series, we’ve spoken to Christine about her experience at Nike, her all-time favorite sneaker, as well as how working at the company continues to inspire her. Read on for our full conversation.
Can you tell us a bit about your role at Nike? What does your typical day at work look like?
I am currently a Nike Women Territory/Category Brand Marketing Manager of Nike Greater China, overseeing the Greater China East Territory women’s market. Friends who follow me on social media always think we don’t have to work, but that’s just one side of the story. Like a lot of office ladies, I work in a cubical in an office building, attend a lot of (sometimes fun, sometimes not so fun) conference calls and meetings. It’s just that we are very privileged to have a nice campus with sports facilities. We also have the luxury, or say, the best excuse to dress in nice sneakers and athleisure style to work. The company culture is fun and vibrant.
If I have to put my day into a pie chart, that’s how it typically looks like:
- 50-percent meetings, including seasonal pitches, brainstorming sessions, weekly updates with different function teams such as digital, sports marketing, influencer’s marketing. etc. Agency brief-in or plan reviews.
- 15-percent working on seasonal plans (AKA keynotes).
- 15-percent relationship building. Host, manage and join events. External clients and partners meetings.
- 10-percent research. Knowing what is in and out in the market. Constantly digging consumer insights and understanding our consumers.
- 5-percent admin, including tidying up the warehouse, daily catch-up with interns and filing.
- 5-percent workout. I would always squeeze time for workout because it keeps me sane – be it morning yoga before work, a 30-minute HIIT session during lunch or an evening run.
Have you always known that you wanted to build a career in marketing? Or a career involving sports?
I have always been heavily involved in sports. As an amateur gymnast since kindergarten, I was in track and field, volleyball, handball and dance varsity teams growing up. I pretty much spent every day in the gymnasium if not on tracks then courts. In fact, I have never studied marketing and graduated with a major in Journalism and Communication. I have always been open to options — my previous jobs varied from working in events (Sanrio Hong Kong) to retail sales (Hollister and Jack Wills), to doing sales and marketing at The Hollywood Reporter.
I guess the urge of wanting to do something related to sports was not vivid until my third year working in a “non-sports related” environment, which made me reminiscence the good old active days. To make my life “less boring”, I started joining free group workout classes that different sports brand offered, picked up new sports like surfing and skateboarding and hiked to secluded waterfalls. I also started watching lots of YouTube workout videos during my free time and followed a couple of sports bloggers for fitspiration.
This made me realized the huge gap between foreign countries and Hong Kong in terms of sports and fitness. Back then in Hong Kong, no one was following Kayla’s BBG. The first spinning studio had not been opened. Only wearing a sports bra and tights to workout in a gym was awkward. Jogging was the only sport friends around me would do. I was not aspiring to be the next fitspiration or anything like that, but I had the urge to do something, for the local female community in a relatable local face and voice.
I was not aspiring to be the next fitspiration or anything like that, but I had the urge to do something, for the local female community in a relatable local face and voice.
One evening, I decided to start a WordPress blog called My Sweattitude — might as well keep oiling my rusty journalism skills I thought. Content includes local new workouts spot reviews, local sports happenings, local adventure races I’d take part in, marathon training journeys and even makeup products I’d personally recommend for workouts, intentionally written in Chinese instead of English. Instagram was also a relatively new platform back then, so fitspo was less about images of colourful lycra wear displayed on amazingly toned bodies with perfect abs. At least for me, I prefer genuine product feedbacks, progressions and journey documentaries.
Seeding influencers was a fairly new concept in 2012, so absolutely no product seeding was involved. I had purchased everything out of my own pocket, which was great though, because I was able to shop brands I genuinely have interest in including Under Armour, Lorna Jane (which was not available in Hong Kong) and Athleta by Gap. Surprisingly, peers started following my daily posts by commenting for advices. A few local media platforms invited me to be a guest blogger because they never had a female sports writer. Gradually, more and more peers around my workout community also hopped on the wagon and started recording their active life. This might have been the initial stage of what I realized I am aspired to do. To simply invite more girls into sports and fitness.
What attracted you to work for Nike in the first place?
As a sports enthusiast, who wouldn’t want to work for the largest sports brand that everyone loves? I precisely remember that my first pair of running shoes and my first-ever sports bra were both from Nike. Imagine a 13-year-old saving up in order to splurge on branded gears, that is what I did when I was young. I wanted to be cool — I buy Nike. I also gathered a lot of Nike collectibles, stickers, brand posters from sports retails stores, too. I guess a dream come true would be an understatement.
How has your job evolved from when you first joined the company?
I will be hitting five years working in the Nike marketing team this August. From the Hong Kong office, I had the opportunity to relocate to our Shanghai team last July. From learning everything about the marketplace, digital landscape, gym partners and consumers in Hong Kong, I now also get to explore Shanghai in our Greater China Headquarters.
I walked into the company primarily focusing on the Nike Women category, then slowly I was recruited into the Nike Women team (which covers everything about women, particularly in sports, running, training and lifestyle). Then eventually, I also got my hands onto men’s training, shortly until we combined both men’s and women’s training as one category. While now I am back to focus on just Nike Women, the exposure to different categories definitely helped a lot for me to start strategically plan what I want to do, and how I want to do it. My mentality shifted from what I think consumers would want me to do, to what I should do for the consumers in order to make a difference.
My mentality shifted from what I think consumers would want me to do, to what I should do for the consumers in order to make a difference.
Looking back, what are some of the most memorable Nike projects you’ve participated in?
In the past four years, I have had participated in Nike projects on a few interesting levels. NTC Tour 2015 was definitely a milestone because looking back, I still could not imagine how my team helped put together the first-ever large-scale fitness event in Hong Kong. The globally curated fitness experience in around 12 different countries, while we brought 2,000 girls to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal for a four-hour NTC, kickboxing, yoga and dance mega class. We managed to send a few Nike global trainers from around the world to lead the classes alongside our local master trainers. There was also an outdoor carnival where in between classes girls could grab a quick bite, put some foil tattoo on while getting their hair braided with their friends. Photo booths, spinning, trampoline, archery trial classes were extremely popular and packed with so much energy. Think EDM party-meets-fitness session against the Hong Kong skyline — it was the best night in my life.
My craziest experience is to have “KISS MY AIRS” inked on my calf as a tribute to the 30th birthday of the iconic Air Max shoes, while participating in our local Nike brand campaign together with 29 other cultural influencers including Joey Yung and Hilary Tsui. One of the female tattoo artists Lily Cash came up with a design and I volunteered to have it inked. A lot of people asked me why I would do it. I mean, why not? Try to name a company that’d ever pay for your tattoo of which the design is a cheekily mischievous tagline that you deeply resonate with? Probably never.
My modelling debut in the global Nike Women Fall/Winter 2017 style guide was definitely the most unexpected. The situation which turned from helping to scout suitable local faces for the photoshoot taken place in Hong Kong, to seeing my own face as part of the seasonal campaign, with assets being leveraged on nike.com was extremely interesting.
Serving athletes (If you have a body, you are an athlete) is at the core of our mission. If you don’t like sports, I am not saying you cannot be a good employee, but then work becomes less enjoyable.
What would you say are the most important attributes to have for being part of the Nike team?
In an FMCG company, changes are inevitable. Plans will never go according as planned, the market changes every day, consumers behaviors change overnight. So, everyone has to be quick on our feet. But love for the games is essential to keep us going. Serving athletes (If you have a body, you are an athlete) is at the core of our mission. If you don’t like sports, I am not saying you cannot be a good employee, but then work becomes less enjoyable. The pursuit of being the first and the best in the market is pretty self-explanatory — and more importantly, to win as a team.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from working at a multinational sports brand?
Despite all the different languages, cultural diversity and intricate corporate infrastructure, I have learnt that sports itself is a powerful universal language. A lot of our employees are or were athletes. Olympic, national, varsity, every day athlete — whatever their level is, knowledge in sports is the greatest and most unique asset that Nike has to uphold an authentic point of view being a sports brand. As long as we have sports to bring us together, there is nothing about the big multinational aspect that we ever have to worry about.
Despite all the language, cultural diversity and intricate corporate infrastructure, I have learnt that sports itself is a powerful universal language.
Nike is known for empowering women and inspiring them to be active through its various designs and initiatives. Is this something that resonates with you personally?
Growing up in an all-girls school from junior until college, I never had doubts on what females are capable of achieving. I especially look up to strong, independent women from all walks of life, but equally respect men who deserves to be honored. One of the core values of Nike is equality. Gender equality is inevitably just a fraction of that.
Going beyond that, I do believe Nike articulates women empowerment much more than a call-to action or a marketing initiative, but to draw awareness addressing social agendas such as race, sexual orientation equality, etc. I am heavily inspired by Serena Williams’ “There is no wrong way to a woman” anthem that came out recently. However, Roger Federer remains my favorite icon to look up to. I do see myself as an equality advocate rather than a feminism activist. I think good messaging, be it male or female-targeted, just empowers me as much.
We have to ask — what is your favorite Nike sneaker ever? Why is that?
The Cortez. Versatile, simple and sleek. It looks great especially on women. Having said that, these shoes are unisex. Most importantly, for its evergreen, iconic silhouette that reflects the heritage of Nike. Back in the ’60s when our co-founder Bill Bowerman, who’s also the athletic team coach of the University of Oregon, was in the pursuit of designing the finest long-distance training shoes. Nike, which had just been rebranded from Blue Ribbon Sports, came out with these performance marathon trainers. In my point of view, leisurely-worn Cortez combines the best of both worlds aesthetically, and embodies the spirit of serving athletes inherited from Bowerman himself.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Five years in Nike’s time is such a short period of time — there are so many leaders in the company who have been in the company for over 20 years. I do not have a specific goal or destination to reach at the moment. The great thing is I enjoy playing and watching literally all kinds of sports including water sports and skateboarding, which we have Converse and Hurley as a parent company. I have always fantasized working at the Hurley WHQ in California — the idea of being able to ride some early waves before or after work soaked in Cali sunshine sounds like my dream job. But who knows? I am open to take whatever comes at me.